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Gender & Women's Studies Faculty
Dr. Molly Kerby
I completed my undergraduate degree in sociology and environmental science in 1994 and my master’s degree in public health, community education, in 1999 – both at Western Kentucky University. I also have graduate certificates in Women’s Studies and Community College Faculty Preparation. I received my PhD in higher education administration from the University of Louisville in 2007.
I have been teaching for almost 12 years at the university level. In the fall of 1999, I taught my first women’s studies courses at Western Kentucky University and found a passion for the field of gender studies, the Women’s Studies Program, and, above all, serving students as well as the community. In the last few years, my educational and research interests have focused primarily on issues pertaining to a) sustainability and the politics of food production and consumption in terms of gender and justice and b) teaching pedagogies in the age of technology. My most recent research and publication projects include a) a dialogue with vegan feminist, activist/author Carol J. Adams to appear in an anthology edited by Alice Gensberg, b) a chapter in a book dealing with cyber pedagogies, and c) a qualitative and quantitative behavioral study in Gales Point, Belize. My last publications appeared in AIDS Education and Prevention, 2003, 15(5) and the Journal of Lesbian Studies, 2005, 9(3). The latter was also published as a chapter in a book entitled Making Lesbians Visible in the Substance Use Field, edited by Elizabeth Ettorre (Plymouth University). My long-term goal is to write a book dealing with food production and consumption among poor women in the U.S. and abroad.
In addition to my interests in traditional classroom teaching, I am the research director for a service-abroad project sponsored by the College of Health and Human service at WKU in Gales Point, Belize. I have a sincere interest in educating students outside the classroom as well as within. One of my goals is to create a women-centered, social justice program that will coordinate efforts to allow students to travel to other communities and countries in a service-learning capacity. Gender-related issues that affect our global neighbors have a direct effect on our nation, and it is imperative that our students learn how and why these relationships exist. There is a growing need and demand in every field for students to have an understanding of the concept of stewardship and sustainability.
Outside the classroom I frequently work with diverse campus and community groups to bridge departments and programs with the larger community. Two of my most rewarding roles at WKU are as a faculty advisor to student groups and as a faculty sponsor of campus events. In my role as a faculty sponsor, I coordinate two major campus events every year: Earth Day/Ecofeminis, Festival (formerly Diversity Rocks) and Rock the Vote. Both events have a wide civic impact on students, faculty, and staff across campus. I believe that students who participate in extra-curricular activities learn a great deal more about leadership skills, conflict resolution, cooperation, and team-building than those who do not get involved. Keeping with my belief that faculty should interact with and act as role models for students, I co-founded the Faculty Staff Alliance (FSOA) in the spring of 2005. The FSOA is an ally group created to support Student Identity Outreach group (an LGBTQQ and allies network) as well as ensure that gay and lesbian faculty and staff are provided a safe and nondiscriminatory work environment, afforded equable partner benefits, and recognized as vital part of the campus community.
Aside from scholarly interests and activities, I enjoy music, gardening, cooking, activism, sports (especially women’s basketball), and KAYAKING! I love the outdoors, nature, the beach, biking, boating, camping, and I am addicted to yoga and swimming. I am the proud parent of 5 dogs (Chloe, Buster, Buddy, and Tess) and 5 cats (Cody, LeilaBelle, Gert, Velvet, and Sam). I am also the co-owner of a deli called Greener Groundz Coffee & café.
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Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/#!/molly.kerby
Dr. Kristi Branham
My academic background is in literature and cultural studies with specialization in late nineteenth and early twentieth century American women’s popular culture. I earned my PhD from the University of Kentucky with an emphasis in feminist and social theory. This background has helped me to develop an interdisciplinary approach to both my research and teaching, calling on discourse analyses primarily from disciplines in the humanities. My research centers on the social and cultural meanings surrounding the concept of work in the United States and the ways certain kinds of labor become associated with women, in particular the type of labor we refer to as “women’s work.” This work includes the gamut of responsibilities required to maintain domestic space and to nurture its inhabitants from cleaning bathrooms and picking up dirty socks to comforting a sick child. I am particularly interested in the way this work is represented in popular culture as an expression of women’s love and care. I am also interested in the ways women’s caring labor is expressed in areas outside the domestic space.
I was born and raised in Franklin, Kentucky, a small town about 21 miles south of Bowling Green. I am married to Shawn Sales and we have a son Seth, age thirteen, and an eight-year-old daughter, Kiah. I received my Bachelor of Science in Social Work with a Minor in African American Studies from Western Kentucky University. I also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling in Marriage and Family, an Educational Specialist Degree in Student Affairs, and a Women Studies Graduate Certificate.
I currently serve as Director of Western Kentucky University’s Educational Talent Search Program; this pre-college program assists middle and high school first-generation students in areas such as post-secondary choices, career choices, self-esteem, ACT preparation, financial aid and multi-cultural awareness. Not only do I teach Women Studies here at WKU, I also teach for the African American Studies Program. In addition, I serve as a consultant for several Bowling Green-Warren County community and educational agencies. I am an active member of the community—at the Loving Springs Baptist Church I serve as a musician, youth and young adult advisor, Sunday School teacher, and THE PASTOR’S WIFE!!! I am also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Dr. Wendy Benningfield
I am an Associate Professor of History at Campbellsville University and have the privilege of teaching adjunct for the Western Kentucky University Women’s Studies Department. I have taught at the college level for 14 years and still love it as much as I did when I started. I have a long connection with WKU. I started as a student when I was 18 and received my Bachelor Degree in Social Studies/Education. Seven years later, I enrolled in WKU again and earned my Masters in History. It was during my time on the Hill at the Masters level that I met Dr. Katherine Abbot who helped me to fall in love with Women’s History and Women’s Studies. I received my PhD from the University of Kentucky in history with a special focus in Women’s History. After graduating from UK, I decided I wanted to earn my Certificate in Women’s Studies so I re-enrolled in WKU.
After receiving my WS certificate, I started a Women’s Studies minor at the liberal arts college where I was teaching. This led to the creation of a Women’s Center where I served as Executive Director until I left my position to start teaching at Campbellsville University. I was surprised by how much I missed teaching Women’s Studies and was lucky enough to get the chance to teach classes on the Hill. I am currently in my second year with the WS department and have taught on-line classes and face-to-face.
I love teaching Women’s Studies because it allows me to help students see the world around them differently. Looking through the lens of gender and from the perspective of women, allows them to understand how diverse experiences can be in today’s society. I also love to watch my students get involved in campus events and causes that are especially important to them.
I have an 11 year old daughter who is the center of my world. I enjoy spending time with her and watching her grow into her own person. Since I have started teaching Women’s Studies, I have noticed that she and I have a lot more conversations about her life and what she will experience as she grows up. She has even begun to refer to herself as a “feminist in training.”
I am part-time faculty for the Women’s Studies Program. Since 2002, I have taught Introduction to Women’s Studies and from 2003-2005 instructed for the Western Kentucky University Women’s Studies Program full time. I am a “Hill Brat” and practically grew up on The Hill since both of my parents worked at WKU for many years. My father is still employed at WKU and works with Aramark Food Services and he is approaching his 45th WKU Anniversary. I earned all three of my degrees from WKU including my B.A. in English, M.A. in Folk Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. In 2005 I was inspired to change my career path to non-profit administration and have since held positions at three different organizations serving women, men, youth and families seeking social and economic justice. My scholarly and non-profit work has largely concentrated on anti-gender based violence prevention, community education and professional development. I also have a special interest in economic equality and justice. I currently hold the position of Regional Director of Development at Volunteers of America of Kentucky, an organization that serves populations that would be homeless, addicted or neglected if we did not serve them. To learn more visit www.voaky.org.
I am dedicated to the disciplinary field of Women’s Studies and feminism because in my professional and personal experience it provides an inclusive and realistic perspective on how gender intertwines with race, socio-economic class, and sexuality identity shapes human lives as well as the social and political landscape of this very complicated world. Feminism has been the catalyst of social change throughout our history and has created equality and opportunities for women and men, individuals from all cultures and ethnicities and individuals from all walks of life. On a personal level, Women’s Studies is a great tool to use to evaluate one’s self and life, personal relationships and how one engages with others as well as their larger community. The Introduction to Women’s Studies course is the best way to explore feminism, social change, and how gender has shaped our personal lives, and I always look forward to introducing the topic to students each semester. Every semester is a meaningful journey for all who are brave enough to travel down that road.
I live in Louisville, KY with my husband and partner of six years and our 13-year-old cat. I am the only daughter and the oldest child of two amazing and hard working parents who both live in Bowling Green. For fun, I enjoy taking long walks, cooking delicious meals, reading novels that make me laugh, and I have a bit of a reality-television addiction (a total guilty-pleasure) with Teen Mom being a more recent show that has grabbed my attention.
[Earning my Women’s Studies degree]:
In 1996, I was introduced to feminism when I took Dr. Jane Olmsted’s Introduction to Women’s Studies course. I approached the class with curiosity and I have to admit a bit of fear. Like so many students who take this course even today, I grew up with the perspective that feminism was an organized group of angry women who demanded more in a society that had “given” them so much already—and I did not view it for what it really is—a historical and present day social movement for gender equality that deserves full credit for the fact that I first of all own myself ( and my father or husband do not own me), that I can vote, that I went to college, have health insurance, own a home, have the right to say “no” and for it be respected and so much more.
I have to credit Western Kentucky University’s Women’s Studies Program for helping me find my voice. When I first took Introduction to Women’s Studies I was a horribly shy young woman who always felt and observed the disparities in my life and others ‘and had not learned how to articulate my thoughts and concerns about existing social inequalities. I left the course with a more clear understanding about how feminism has contributed to women’s equality, why gender and other social inequalities still existed and discovered how I could personally contribute to feminism’s efforts.
This new found passion of feminism led me to taking more Women’s Studies courses, earning my Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies and finally teaching the WOMN 200. Today, I apply my experience and knowledge of feminism in non-profit administration. I am currently employed as the Regional Director of Development at Volunteers of America of Kentucky, an organization that serves 8,000 people in a four-state region. I help raise passion and funds for the organization that ultimately helps keep the doors open in all thirty-five programs we serve. I help create social justice and positive change everyday. We end help families with children end inter-generational homelessness whether they are single parent families, two-parent families or non-married partner families. Volunteers of America provides long-term residential care and treatment to men and women facing the challenges of substance abuse—and in the case of women, provide residential services to women who are mothers and their children may live with them. We provide 24-hour care and residential services in private home settings to older adults with developmental disabilities who would otherwise be institutionalized. Additionally, we are Kentucky’s largest care coordinator provider for individuals and families impacted by HIV and AIDS and are the state’s largest HIV and AIDS prevention program. To learn more, visit www.voaky.org.
I really owe my entire career to the field of feminism and women’s studies and all of the instructors who led me along the way.